USA defence secretary accuses China of 'intimidation' over militarised Spratly Islands

China's sole aircraft carrier the Liaoning, arrives in Hong Kong waters

Guns and Butter How China's Military Buildup Relates to Trade War With US AFP 2018 Anthony WALLACE

His broadside at a security summit in Singapore drew a sharp rebuke from a Chinese general, who lashed out at "irresponsible comments" on the contested sea and insisted Bejing was simply defending its territory.

When U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis takes the stage Saturday at a major Asia-Pacific security summit, he's widely expected to deliver a stern criticism of recent Chinese actions in the South China Sea. "There are consequences that will continue to come home to roost with China, if they do not find the way to work more collaboratively with all of the nations who have interest".

China has branded as "irresponsible" U.S. comments that it is intimidating its neighbours with its military deployment in the South China Sea.

Mattis vowed that the United States will push back against Beijing's aggression, amid growing concerns that the established US presence and security assurances across the western Pacific region are being eroded by the Chinese regime's encroachments.

The comments came on the heels of a string of events that highlight the tension between the world's two biggest economies over the South China Sea's disputed waters.

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An editorial in the state-run Global Times newspaper said the tension in the South China Sea was "due to the USA continuing to increase its military presence in the region, forcing China to naturally upgrade its defensive weapons on the islands".

Mattis said Beijing had deployed a range of military hardware - including anti-ship missiles, surface-to-airmissiles and electronic jammers - across the South China Sea, where it has built islets and other maritime features into hardened military facilities.

Asked during the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference over whether it was too late to stop China, Mr Mattis said: "Eventually, these (actions) do not pay off".

China's deployment of defensive facilities on its islands in the South China Sea is a legitimate right granted to sovereign states by worldwide law, which has nothing to do with militarization and does not pose a threat to regional security, he said.

Despite his criticism, Gen Mattis added that the United States would "continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China" with "co-operation whenever possible". That's angered Beijing, which claims Taiwan under a policy known as "One China" and opposes other countries pursuing ties with Taipei.

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The archipelago, named after British whaling captain Richard Spratly, lies between Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei and parts of it are claimed by all. Reuters first reported the patrol last month in which two US Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China, even as President Donald Trump sought Chinese cooperation on North Korea.

Although France is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, by conducting such exercises "on a regular basis with allies and friends" it is contributing to a rule-based order, according to Parly.

Mattis also touched on Taiwan, a longstanding dispute between the USA and China. China has not sent high-level officials to the three-day meeting, in an apparent attempt to deflect attention from its campaign to expand its sovereignty across virtually the entire South China Sea.

Two US warships sailed close to the Paracel Islands on May 27 in the latest freedom of navigation operation created to challenge Beijing's claims.

Mattis emphasized that the US military wants more transparency from China. The world's second largest economy is boosting its military capabilities there and analysts say there's really not a whole lot the US can do about it.

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"We did not do freedom of navigation for America alone", Mattis said.

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